Friday, December 16, 2005

running early (bags under eyes)

In order to get a peaceful, non-crammed run in, I have been waking myself up at 5:15 a.m. (beating 20-month-old Iz to the punch). Abraham (that lovely husband of mine) is a teacher and leaves the house at 7 a.m. I time my wake-up so I can be out the door by 5:30 and back before Abe leaves. Well. It has been cold lately. Very cold. But I still do it. I don’t mind the cold. And I enjoy the time. I can get a 6-8 mile run in. Then I feel like I have extra time all day. No worries! (Well, some worries. Fewer worries?)

When I was young(er) and single and baby-less and living in New York City, I used to do the same. I ran in snow, in rain, in 10-degree weather, in the dark, and without a dog. Now I have the dog, so loved ones worry less about my safety. (Though the dog, Zi, is a wacky, friendly hound/lab mix who has never bitten a soul. He does have a mean bark.) I don’t know why it took me so long to do these runs again.

The first time I ran in the early morning in my PG County neighborhood, it didn’t occur to me to be nervous. Heck, I wasn’t nervous doing so in New York City! But I grew up there, so I knew not to run in the lower depths of Riverside Park until the sun was up.

On this particular morning in PG County, a white van seemed to be following me. The van was moving slow, right behind me. I would turn, and the van wouldn’t follow me, but it would pop up again on another turn. This went on for at least two miles before I noticed the newspapers flying from the open window. Ah. Now I see the van all the time. I recognize The Washington Post white van and The New York Times burgundy SUV. The SUV driver is friendly and waves. The van driver looks at me as if I am crazy and in the way.

I am a little more tired (but not dramatically so). But I don’t wake so early every morning. But Iz does compound the tiredness. Recently, he is not sleeping through the night because he is viciously teething. Are these bags under my eyes permanent?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


A shower takes me seven minutes. The actual shower part, that is. The post-shower routine (hair and tooth brushing, moisturizing, etc.) also takes about seven minutes. Abraham, my fabulous husband, thinks this is too long. (This coming from a man who can spend upwards of 20 minutes in the bathroom for non-shower reasons).Granted, his shower may take two minutes – no joke. (I sometimes question how clean he actually is.)

I know exactly how long tasks will take.

A trip to the grocery store, including drive time, takes an hour and a half at best. I really, really dislike going to the grocery store. I didn’t mind it when I lived in New York City. I walked there with my shopping cart, stocked up, and walked home with a heavier shopping cart (or had it delivered for just the price of a tip to the deliverer). Shopping in the suburbs of Washington, DC, has a whole different feel – especially with a toddler in tow. The grocery stores are huge. Have I walked a mile or more by the time I am done? I am usually exhausted and a bit dazed – and I can go out and run 10 miles at a moment’s notice!

Walking Iz to his babysitter takes 15 minutes each way, so a half an hour for drop off and a half an hour for pick up means an hour gone.

In a given day, if I want to go for a run, get some editing and writing jobs done, make sure Iz is fed well (which is a trick in itself – the kid hates eating) and not totally neglected, keep the house in some semblance of livable neatness (and my standard of “neat enough” has dropped way down), get myself fed, and perhaps run one errand – there is no way I can get it all done:

  • Running (or other form of exercise): up to 2 hours (including preparation and recovery)
  • Editing and writing: 2-4 hours
  • Feeding Iz breakfast and lunch and a snack or two: 2 hours (including preparation)
  • Entertaining Iz: 4 hours (which is usually quite nice)
  • Maintaining livable neatness: 1 hour
  • Feeding myself breakfast and lunch: 45 minutes (including preparation)
  • Completing any one errand (post office, supermarket, etc.): 1-3 hours
  • Total: 12:45-16:45

And I didn’t include dinner (which Abraham, thank god, deals with most of the time). Or my shower time. Or maybe watching a TV show or reading a newspaper article. But I often abandon the errand or livable neatness completely.

So I have started waking up at 5:15 a.m. to run before Abraham leaves for work at 7 a.m. That makes me feel a little more on top of things. But tired.

I know I don’t have a bad life. Clearly, many in this world have it worse. I have a pretty good life.

My awareness of how long everything takes, however, can make me a temporary, but recurring, basket case. (Even more annoying – Abraham has no clue how long tasks take. He thinks a grocery trip takes half an hour – completely forgetting drive time and wandering quotient.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

boy crazy

My mother described me as “boy crazy” in high school. I thought that sounded so 1950s. But she wasn’t wrong. I would like to say that I was tough, independent, intellectual… and maybe I was. But I was also boy crazy – insane, really.

I have pulled out my freshman year journal and have not yet been brave enough to read more than a few sentences. A cringe-worthy sample: “Today was the last day of my freshman year at school. I can’t believe it is over. I didn’t get a chance to say a good, sound goodbye to anyone but A., J., and S. I didn’t even get to say ‘hello’ to N. I won’t see anyone until school starts again. Isn’t that freaky? I’ll miss some people so much. I’ll miss N. more than anyone, even though he lives stronger in my mind than in my life.” Oh, it goes on and on and on. I don’t even think I had talked to N. in at least a month by the end of that school year. And we were never close. I was simply obsessed with him. And he was a total a*sshole. (As I typed this, I read beyond those few sentences and cringed even more. This is going to be hard.)

I could not throw out all my old journals, but I never thought I could bear to read them again. My mother found them stored in a closet in the New York City apartment and carefully wrapped each bursting volume (I pasted clippings, letters and pictures into them) in plastic wrap (yes, the kind you use to store food). I know she didn’t read them. She is still appalled that her brother found and read her diaries from high school (in the 1950s) – and they were in their 50s when he did so.

So here is the next grand writing idea – find something worthwhile in the old journals. Write the story of my freshman year, or high school years, and emphasize the 80s-ness of it all. I was in high school from 1985 to 1989. And the 80s seem to be attractive again (legwarmers, Dynasty and Dallas on Soap channel reruns, 80s songs now classic rock).

But is it really interesting to read the story of a boy crazy girl? Ick. Well, I guess there is the whole chick-lit genre… But I don’t think I can write that way.I’ll just have to write it my own way.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

run, don't walk

My child runs away -- toward, away from, for whatever reason -- whenever I put him down. It is near impossible to have him free, out of his stroller, in a public place. Especially one that includes roads and cars. Say, a park in the middle of a city -- like Hyde Park in downtown Sydney.

I continue my temporary single parent role. (Is it inappropriate to refer to myself in this way? Am I slighting true single parents and my husband with one phrase?) Iz and I are still with my mother in Sydney. We are managing to do some fun, interesting things even under the stressful circumstances.

We had to get out last night -- I could not be in the apartment for another moment. I have not been trapped there; we have been out and about for a bit every day. But I had an overwhelming urge to get out (and run?). It was 5pm and, even on a Saturday, all the shops downtown close at 6pm. We went anyway.

After a bit of shopping, we stopped at Starbucks for a sandwich to share and a coffee for me. (It is usually unnecessary to go to Starbucks here, in a land of great coffee. But we were desperate and everything else was closed by 6:15.)

Then we tried to have an imporomptu picnic on the grass in Hyde Park. It was lovely at dusk -- the darkeing sky, the city lights. Iz stayed in his storller and actually ate something -- pesto chicken bits from the sandwich. But the moment I let him out, he took off toward Park Street. A little wall, one foot high or so. separated him from the sidewalk and road. He could scale that with no problem. If the drop of several feet on the other side didn't hurt him, the road he looked intent on running into would.

When I caught him and turned him around, he took off toward the center of the park -- certainly safer than the road -- and he was 50 feet away from me in mere seconds.

After the running, we checked out a fun photography exhibit, "Sydney Life," which was installed on huge pieces of canvas in the central walkway of the park. I let Iz out again, and he ran down the paved walkway, under the huge, bright white lanterns, away from me.

Between this outing and a bunch of others, I now have a ton of pictures of Iz's back.

I put him down, and he goes.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

believe in ghosts?

Maybe “believe” isn’t the right word…

I had an odd experience this morning. I put on the Animal Planet channel for Iz. (Iz loves Animal Planet, and animals in general). A show that focuses on a different dog breed each episode was on. Excellent, I thought, Iz loves dogs. I was only half watching as I made breakfast. And Iz wasn’t watching at all, as he roamed the living room with a shopping bag in hand, collecting his toys and dragging them around.

I can’t remember the name of the show, nor can I remember the specific breed of dog – some kind of spaniel. The show started with a story about ghosts in an English castle. I don’t remember the castle name, but it is open to the public. I also don’t remember the names of the gentry who originally lived there way back when.

But the story goes that a spaniel ghost haunts this castle. It appears as a normal, flesh and bones dog and runs up and down stairs, through halls, into rooms, and then disappears. Sightings are well documented: Visitors mention or complain about dogs being allowed to run loose in the castle, and the custodians and historians know all about this spaniel, which was owned by some lady (who also haunts the castle) hundreds of years ago.

While I watched this segment of the show (in a rather half-assed way, I remind you), I suddenly got serious goose bumps all over my arms and legs. I wasn’t cold. Nothing had changed in the climate of the room. I am not usually spooked by random ghost stories, especially on bright, sunny mornings. The goose bumps disappeared when the story was over and the show moved on to focus on actual flesh and blood spaniels.

When I retold the odd experience to my mother, I immediately got the extreme goose bumps again, which I found even stranger, compounding the earlier experience. While I type this, they are returning. Spooky.

I am not saying I believe in ghosts. Maybe I do think something might exist or linger (as vague as that sounds). I do think it is interesting that I reacted so strongly to a completely indirect experience – to something on television, a report of another’s report of the experiences of yet another layer of people. If I did “believe”, would my reaction validate the story itself, no matter how far removed? Or would it point to another “real” ghost in my own environment? Or simply point to something about me, inside me, that caused such a strong reaction?

Friday, October 14, 2005

hair loss

My mother has started to lose her hair. I guess that is the least of her worries. But it must be hard to face.

If I were in her place, I think this phase – following the first chemotherapy treatment, before complete hair loss – would be like limbo, just waiting. I think I would feel better after all the hair was gone. Then at least I’d be in it, over a hump.

(If I do go through this, which I very well could, at least I have the role models of three very strong, brave women, my mother and her two best friends, who have faced and survived treatment – I am assuming my mother will make it because it is hard to imagine anything else. She has always been here. If they can do it, I can if need be down the line. Actually, I know too many older women – more than the three I mention – who have gone through this. The numbers seem out of proportion with probability.)

I suggested shaving her hair off, but she doesn’t feel “brave” enough. She is plenty brave. She washed her hair and much of it came out. I was out running when this happened. She called one of her close friends in tears. She was seemed more peaceful about it when I saw her an hour or so later and she had pulled out all her gorgeous scarves.

I have yet to see her, reportedly dramatic, thinning hair. Neither of us wanted her to take off the emerald green scarf, at least for now. She carried Iz off to look at her scarves and I heard her say, “No, don’t pull the scarf off!” as I was walking in the opposite direction. I didn’t turn around.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

different in Sydney, Australia

Three things that are different in Sydney:

1. The morning paper arrives wrapped in plastic wrap, not in a bag that provides a second service as diaper or doggie poop holder/disposal.

2. Talk radio is called "talkback," which makes some sense.

3. Almost everything is smaller: paper towel rolls are a good two inches or more shorter than their American counterparts and look squat; you cannot find huge cups of coffee, like the Starbucks venti, except in the Starbucks at Hyde Park and Park Street, and that venti is smaller than the U.S. venti. (So paper towels and coffee are "everything"?)

Those are just three things I noticed this morning.

Monday, October 10, 2005

jet lag

Iz and I have arrived in Sydney – as of four days ago. My mother is definitely not well (i.e., very ill), but she looks (mostly) like herself and is up and about. For now. After her chemotherapy treatment next week she’ll feel terrible again.

So we are here to cheer her up. I wish Abraham could be here. Hell, I wish Zi the dog could be here (if he ever did make the trek, I think he would have to be quarantined for six months – which would be really bad for his psyche). There is even an unofficial dog park right in front of my mother’s apartment building (though it is not fenced in and Zi would be sure to run into a nearby road).

Iz and I have checked out the dog park a couple of times. He gets so excited – though I don’t know how he recognizes a miniature poodle or boston terrier as dogs, when his looks more like a coonhound (not actually sure what he is -- he is from the rescue league). But Iz knows dog. At the park, he runs around screaming, "Dog, dog, dog, dog, dog!" You almost cannot understand that he is saying the word over and over because he says it so quickly.

Iz is a little more needy – I assume from missing Dad (and dog) and experiencing jet lag – though doing very well. He is breastfeeding more than normal (how am I ever going to get him to give it up?), and jet lag is making him think that waking up at 4:30-5:00 a.m. is the thing to do.

But the mornings are beautiful in my mother’s twelfth-floor apartment. Iz and I climb the steps to the second floor (thirteenth floor?) where the living room and kitchen are, and emerge into the early morning light coming through the two walls of windows and look out over the Sydney skyline.

We have not gone far afield yet. This morning we did go to Café Zoe on Bourke Street and to a little playground on Chelsea Street. We have plans to get into the city and even to the famous Toronga Park Zoo.

Later this morning, we plan to go with Mom/Grandma to pick up her wig, and perhaps pick out a second funky one (pink?). Then we will go for a walk around the city.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

in case anyone was worried

Despite his slow weight gain, Iz is fantastic -- has excellent nutritional levels and no growth hormone issues. He may have earned the diagnosis of "contitutional delay of growth and puberty" (instead of "failure to thrive"), which basically means he is little and will be littl for longer. (Who needs to worry about when a 17-month-old will hit puberty?). I don't think insurance covers this "condition," but, as luck would have it, there is no treatment but time -- I have no doubt that he will keep growing. His father was a little child. His paternal grandfather (Pop pop) was a little child. Now they are both six-plus feet tall. Now, it is my family that is short -- across the board -- but we were all medium to large sized babies. So Iz will be a giant. (Right?)

The worries about my mother continue. She starts chemotherapy now (she may even be receiving treatment as I write, since she is 14 hours ahead, in Monday morning). No more prognosis until they see how she responds to the treatments -- she could live for only months, for years, or for years and years. Iz and I fly out to see her on October 4. I feel as if I am in a holding pattern until I see her -- a bit helpless and sad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Maybe my dad has never gotten over his therapy experiences in the 70s and 80s (let alone in the 90s and 2000s). He puts too much store in it. Now, I have no issue with therapy (and I have been in therapy in the past – it can help – but I also find it easy to avoid what I really don’t want to talk about but should talk about). But the pop-psychology jargon drives me crazy. That is what my dad has never gotten over. And he wonders why I don’t “open up” to him easily. I just don’t want to hear it.

I was talking to him on the phone about my mother’s ovarian cancer, Iz’s possible growth hormone issues, and taking Iz to Sydney to see and help my mother. He said (and this is close to verbatim, though I am stringing together separate statements), “You should consider leaving Iz with Abraham. I may be speaking from my own baggage. But they are obviously well bonded. You do not want to go to Sydney with too many agendas. I’m just mirroring what you are saying to me.” Thanks, Dad.

If and when I go to Sydney, Iz is coming with me (unfortunately, Abraham cannot).Though Iz requires a lot of work, I would be very upset if I had neither husband, son, nor dog with me – I want at least a portion of my cozy family. Never mind the baggage, bonding, agendas and mirroring.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

lost week

This has been a lost week. My now-standard weekly schedule and to-do list that I write on a white, lined, letter-size pad has been blank all week. I just realized this, and what day of the week it actually is, when I went to add to it and found it completely blank.

I have done things – mainly editing work and doctor appointments and playgroup for Iz – and I have even managed to maintain my training for the half-marathon I am running next weekend. But I didn't keep the list – which usually helps maintain my sanity and my ability to juggle being a full-time mother and full-time editor and writer.

Okay, here is the heavy concern that is weighing on my mind: My mother has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is having surgery on the 15th of September in Sydney. She is awaiting the results of a PET scan to see if it is a new, or primary, cancer or a secondary cancer, a recurrence from her breast cancer 13 years ago, and to determine her treatment. Even with the best prognosis, she will have an awful few months.

Now, you see, she already had her cancer. This seems so unfair. I have cried here and there – usually whenever I talk about it (though I am strangely dry-eyed as I write). I have not totally lost it yet – though I almost do at moments. I probably should just let myself fall apart to feel cleansed, or something. But then I feel like I wouldn’t be able to work (and a freelancer doesn’t get paid family leave), keep household running and care for my sweet little babe.

I want to fly out there – the whole 24-hour trip thing – and be there before she comes home, probably on the 25th of September. I want to buy some nice teas and some other goodies and get things comfy and set up for her. (She does have a boyfriend, a partner, who lives with her. I suppose he can also do many of these things, and he is very involved.)

But there is another weighty concern: I took Iz to his appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist. Iz is dramatically lightweight at almost 17-months old: 19 pounds, 13 ounces. And even though he is doing great otherwise – has energy to spare and is developmentally on track, happy, focused on his activities and interested in other people – his pediatrician referred him for GI functioning tests to make sure he is okay. She give "failure to thrive" as a possible diagnosis. (I have since read up on this diagnosis, and only his slow weight gain fits the diagnosis. "Failure to thrive" usually also invloves listlessness, delayed development, and lack of involvement with others.) But we were pretty sure he (1) is just a little guy for now and (2) doesn’t love wasting his time eating. (Feeding him is often a huge pain in the ass.)

But it looks like Iz might have a growth hormone issue (his "random growth hormone" test showed very low levels – but the GI said this is a poor indicator, though it raises a red flag for further investigation). We are waiting for the more specific blood tests to come back in the next week or two. (He still might be just fine.) The GI wants me to wait until the results come back to make any travel plans. Iz would come with me, of course (though 24-hours of travel with a toddler sounds more icky than the usual ick of that trip). So we might have to wait until early October to see Grandma. I did take Iz to get his passport (what a funny passport photo – his little chin is pulled back, his eyes are wide, his fine blonde hair is standing on end at the crown), which should also be here within two weeks.

So my week has been a tad overwhelming (though I am not the one with ovarian cancer or possible growth hormone issues).

I have started next week’s schedule and to-do list. I wonder when am I going to lose my cool (actually, I am rarely that calm, cool, and collected these days) more dramatically that simply not keeping my legal pad schedule? Maybe I won’t. Yeah, right.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

until the end of the world is playing U2’s “Until the End of the World” while I am sitting at my desk working on some editing job late in the evening (late for me is now 9 p.m. — hey, I have a 16-month-old son!). I am not sure I know everything about this song – and I don’t even have it on a CD or in MP3 form – but it has always felt very passionate and over-the-top. It makes me stop and listen. The song taps into some deep, strong feeling. Can’t explain it fully – but you have probably responded to a whole bunch of songs in this way. Whichever song it is makes you pause and listen for its entire length – it is a different feeling from singing along to some catchy tune (though you make sing along).

Anyway, I started thinking about teenage passions. And how when we are that age, nothing else matters. We think that is it. The boy we are in love with MUST know how we feel and must respond. That is all-important. We must escape from our parents because they could never REALLY understand. And we have such freedom: We can fail a test at school – even fail a class(I swear, I never failed, but I can close a couple of times) – and still move on, graduate, be successful. We can have a falling out with a best friend and never talk to her again – until we imagine we see her at Union Station ten years later and she looks lost, completely drugged out. But I digress…

I am a mother and a wife. I have work to finish for clients and a house to keep clean and organized (with husband’s major help, of course – I’d have it no other way). Yet I still feel like that teenager who could get sucked into a song – the feel of a song – the passion. It does not end even though I might appear older (I won’t say “old” yet) to a seventeen-year-old (such as my half-brother). I guess this is what I did not understand about my parents when I was younger – and I can only begin to see it in them now. It makes me more forgiving.

We never completely "grow up," or become what we think "grown up" is when we are teenagers. (I wonder about my husband’s aunt whose 100th birthday is coming up this October; does she feel the same way?). Maybe we confuse growing up with a loss of passion.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

equal rights screed

I have never understood why (some) men are so threatened by feminism, by women having equal rights. (Why not pass the ERA? Makes no sense. The “avoiding big government” excuse is, at best, a joke and misses the point.) Maybe these men are also very competitive with and threatened by other men, so they want to avoid an even playing ground with the other half of humanity as well. But I don’t think that really explains the actions and words of these type of men.

The July 24, 2005, New York Times Book Review included a thoughtful essay by Naomi Wolf, one of my favorite feminists (And one of my generation – Generation X, of course – which is getting rarer, though not as rare as feminists of the generation now in their teens.), author of The Beauty Myth and Misconceptions. In this essay, “She Stoops to Conquer,” Wolf examines how Edward Klein reveals his fears and fantasies about the relationship between men and women, in his book on Hillary Clinton. And she parallels his treatment of Clinton with the treatment of Mary Wollstonecraft two centuries ago. These two women share similar personal histories, but also were derided by men as being unfeminine, sexually predatory, frigid, and lesbian (as Wolf writes, “A neat trick for any one woman to accomplish.”)

Wolf is so damn good at what she does. Wow. She is well informed, she writes clearly and persuasively, and she makes connections that are compelling – noticing dark, manipulative things that undermine or outright attack women that many of us might overlook, such as when she points out that Klein writes “It all went to prove that Bill Clinton could ‘not even control his own wife.’” Why should he? Is he her keeper? Are they not equals? How nasty. Yet one might miss it in the midst of reading and not react to the insidiousness.

I find it especially telling that Klein is, reportedly (granted, I have not read his book), overly interested not only in Clinton’s sexuality but also in her appearance: She used to be attractive, now she is not. And why does this matter? Is this yet another attack on a women’s attractiveness as she ages to undermine her independence and influence? That is such a tired strategy – but one that won’t go away it seems.

Even some women assume that appearance and style are acceptable reasons to criticize or even hate other women – but only a few women do this (and, we are always told, probably feel really lousy about themselves – so we should perhaps feel sorry for them).

This may be a leap, but I am reminded of a bit in Helen Fielding’s newish book, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination (not a great book – but it was fun enough to keep me reading). With the voice of her main character, Fielding writes,

"If a woman was on the Girls’ Team, she could be as beautiful, intelligent, rich, famous, sexy, successful and popular as f***, and you’d still like her. Women on the Girls’ Team had solidarity. They were conspiratorial and brought all their f***-ups to the table for everyone to enjoy. Undercover B****es were competitive: they showed off, tried to put others down to make themselves look good, lacked humor and a sense of their own ridiculousness, said things that were okay on the surface but were actually designed to make you feel really bad, couldn’t bear it when they weren’t getting enough attention, and they flicked their hair. Men didn’t get all this. They thought women took against each other because they were jealous. Quite tragic, really."

I believe the Undercover B**** type is even rarer than some believe. Most women tend toward supporting other women. And women must stick together and support each other – avoid being critical for all the wrong reasons. I may not love Hillary Clinton, but my issues with her have to do with her middle-of-the road politics – she is not doing enough or challenging the status quo, the man, the powers that be, the (striving to be) all-powerful Bush empire. I couldn’t care less when she looks like, or if she is feminine enough, or bakes cookies, or changed her name when she married. What trivial things that are distracting us from substantial issues. No one would apply these same questions to men in the same position (ah, the old complaint, but obviously somewhat ignored in our society).

Feminism has never has meant hating men, being a working mom as opposed to a stay-at-home one, shaving or not shaving certain body hair – these issues are beside the point and up to the individual woman. And that is the whole point, people: Women are equal to men and must have the same individual choices as men, without being attacked for meaningless, insidious reasons that distract and undermine.

Friday, June 17, 2005

my imagination and Star Wars

I used to have such an imagination. I miss it. When I was very young, I would make up stories with any tools – cutouts from magazines, stuffed animals, plastic dinosaurs. Then I wrote stories – often science fiction or fantasy stories – when I was as young as eight until I was a teenager. Then I started writing other, more realistic stuff.

I could watch movies and be transported into them. I could create and imagine my own character inserted into the plot, on the screen, with lines and actions and everything. I was particularly skilled with the original Star Wars trilogy (Now often called Eposides IV, V and VI).

I hoped the newest Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, would elicit a similar response. (After all, it had good reviews – but I think even the reviewers wanted it to be good so much that they deluded themselves.) Even though I am 34 and barely remember what that powerful imagination felt like, I wanted to taste it again. Episodes I and II certainly didn’t bring it back – man, were they awful. Can’t George Lucas create a movie in which the characters can actually show instead of say what they think? Evidently not. Do they always have to announce, stiffly, their emotions and motivations? Evidently they do.

Maybe the Lucas' direction can be blamed. Or maybe the needs of the story – the fact that we are seeing Jedi knights primarily, who are so stoic, almost Buddhist, not people who usually express passion. No matter what, whoever plays Anakin Skywalker is not so good, bad even. (I had to look it up, Hayden Christensen. Am I showing my age here?) You could argue that Anakin has passion, but Christensen plays it as so pouty – it is not believable passion. But passion – anger and fear – causes his conversion to the Dark Side. So I find myself unconvinced about his fall.

And Padme. Poor Padme. She had potential: A queen and a senator, able to dress down and tough and stick up for herself and her ideals. But in Revenge of the Sith, all she does (with two exceptions) is hang about in an apartment with a great urban view as her pregnant belly becomes increasingly large. (The old "barefoot and pregnant" ideal rearing its ugly head?) She wears impossibly silly nightgowns, including one with rows and rows of pearls on the sleeves. At one point, she is even brushing her hair (in that fake, on-top-of-the-perfect-curls way) on the porch while going through some truly painful dialogue. I don’t know how Natalie Portman, who has proven herself as an excellent actress elsewhere, didn’t break down in hysterical laughter at her situation.

Padme does have some excellent, even powerful, political commentary lines. The best and most chilling: “This is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” But she backs down from ever challenging her increasingly wrong-headed husband and actually dies because her heart is broken! So weak. (Yes, I recognize that she has to die for the story line to make sense.)

Even way back in the 1970s, Princess Leia had balls. She was tough. She was a great role model in many ways. Even in love with Han Solo she was not sunk into anything like the almost complete inaction of Padme. Love did not emasculate (efeminate?) her.

I was not transported by Revenge of the Sith. But I had to see it. And I'd see it again. The original Star Wars trilogy was so formative for me. I can actually remember sitting on the sidewalk in Times Square with my dad, waiting for tickets to see the first movie in 1977. I was six years old. I don’t actually remember that first viewing of the movie. I do remember the nightmare following: Darth Vader was taking me away from my parents, as if he were going to take on the role of my father. (So maybe it was a little scary for a six year old.)

Maybe my imagination, dormant for so long, did not want to emerge to hang out with Anakin and Padme. Not worth it. Though Obi Wan Kenobi has potential (and Ewan McGregor manages to get some decent acting in despite portraying a Jedi knight).

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I remember 1

I remember my mother cutting up fruit. She quartered apples and pears, and seemed to slide the knife effortlessly in an arc to cut out the seeds. Then she put the quarters on a little plate.

She cut the tip of a banana off instead of snapping the top open, leaving a cone of banana flesh, which I wanted to eat first, in the tip.

Now I am the mother, cutting up fruit for Iz. I almost always think of my mother when I do. But I never get that perfect arc when I cut out the seeds from an apple quarter. My knife gets caught, leaving choppy marks.

And I never think to cut off the tip of the banana until I have already snapped the stem.

Sunday, May 29, 2005


“I don’t know you, but I know you,” my grandmother said to me. Her hand rested on my forearm as I crouched next to the chair she was sitting in. We were at my mother’s house in Sydney, Australia. My Grandma had Alzheimer’s. She died a few months after that day in August 2000. I think it was the last time I saw her alive.

Old Woman in Red Chair,Bronx, NY
© Beth Neville 1966

Grandma sunk into the lounge chair (and it was not particularly overstuffed – it was more on the petite side), and her feet rested on a padded footstool because they could not reach the floor. She was always a tiny woman, 4 foot 11 inches at full height, but she seemed like she was only 4 ½ feet (tops) by the time she was 90 years old. I am not tall, 5 foot 3 inches, but I towered over her.

My mother has been visiting us for a week or so. She made the 24-hour flight from Sydney to the East Coast of the United States for the third time this year – brutal. She moved back to Sydney when I was 19 years old (15 years ago). She was born and raised there – and I am a dual citizen, an Australerican or Ameralian. I have a thoroughly American accent, though I have a few Australian cultural inheritances.

Iz had not seen his Grandma in four months, and she worried, “He won’t know me.” She does live so far away. But she has such a presence. He would not draw a blank when he saw her again.

He did smile when he saw her – and he usually holds back before smiling at any random stranger. And he was reaching for her within the hour (which he does with very few, if any, non-parental or canine affiliates). And Iz now always (I don’t exaggerate) smiles at Grandma – he knows her without a doubt.

I am sure he knew her the moment she walked up at the airport, like my grandmother knew me: “I don’t know you, but I know you.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

all words start with “B” (except “woof”)

Or so it seems. Iz can say “bird,” "book," and “ball.” But he thinks birds are pictures that hang on walls. We have a tapestry with many birds woven into it hanging in our dining room, which is where he learned the word. At some point, he started gesturing toward the tapestry (not quite pointing), so I started pointing to all the birds, saying “bird” and counting them (13). Why not? Soon after, we were in the living room, and Iz pointed at the painting of a field and farm house and said, “Bir”(no “d”).

Abraham does not believe Iz can say “book” or “ball” because Iz’s first and favorite sound is “ba.” All B words are subtle variations on “ba.” But he deliberately says “ba” when rolling a ball on the floor or holding a book. But we could also claim that he knows how to say “boat,” “balloon,” “broccoli,” “bottle” (which he never took to), "block," "baby," or "b*oob(ie)" (or "b*reast" for the more sophisticated) and someone might believe us.

Iz’s first word, however, was no B word. It was “woof.” (It is in the dictionary; I checked.)

Our dog, Zi, probably does not remember life Before Iz (B.I.). He still has an over-excited reaction if visitors oh and ah over Iz when they arrive: He jumps, he licks, he whimpers and stomps his front paws. Jealousy? But certainly he can’t remember those days when he was the first baby. Perhaps protective?

Iz loves the dog. Zi can do no wrong. He can bark, jump, chase his tail, whatever. Iz laughs. He laughs even is he is in the middle of crying because it is bedtime or because I have taken the cordless phone from him.

But Zi can make Iz cry – if he leaves when Iz is pulling on his ears or holding on to his tail. A few times, Zi has run Iz down or nicked his head with a paw (once leaving a little welt on Iz’s forehead). There was crying. But even then, Iz was quickly off again, doing his commando crawl to grab a hold of Zi’s tail again, laugh, and say “woof” over and over.

Zi often just stands there, staring at the wall, tolerating the sub-20-pound human latched on to his tail. Sometimes he turns tail (literally) and licks Iz’s face (more laughter). Other times he walks away, pulling Iz along the floor, who is again laughing and saying “woof.”

Sunday, April 17, 2005

sad on Iz's first birthday

I am kind of sad on Iz’s first birthday.

One year is both a long time and a short time (Not very original. I’m sure many parents have made this observation). Humans, born so helpless in comparison to other animals, change so much in one year. I can only barely remember when Iz couldn’t hold his own head up, when Iz was only a little over five pounds in weight (he is still a pee wee, maybe eighteen pounds). Now he is traveling around on two feet while holding onto furniture and crawling wherever he feels like going (or wherever the dog is). He is such fun to watch.

I do remember the craziness and pain of giving birth, but it is as if I am watching it on TV or in a dream. I am seeing through my own eyes and I know it hurts, but I can’t actually feel it. I never wrote down my labor story – I probably should. (I have been saying that for a year.)

We had a birthday party for Iz. I was tired the whole time. Would I do it all over again? Maybe. Not sure. Iz wanted me the whole time – he wouldn’t let anyone else hold him for long without fussing: he swivels his body away from whomever is holding him, reaches his arms out, and grunts for me. It is not the most elegant sound, but he is clear about his needs and irresistible to his mother. He is not always so mama-needy (though he certainly needs me), but there were more people around than usual (twelve or so?). Good thing Abraham does all the cooking or none of those twelve would have eaten.

It was a perfect day – an April day with 70+ degree weather and no mosquitoes (yet). We set up all sorts of furniture on the back deck and yard (me, a born-and-bred New York City girl, with a back yard – go figure). We even had an outdoor “room” on the grass with an old jute carpet and a wicker couch and chairs. That was the best part.

Iz is (Is Iz?) asleep now. Though we meant to, we didn’t take any pictures. (I think a grandparent did – but this particular grandparent always takes lousy pictures and they rarely include me – does that sound bitter?) There is a video of his first encounter with cake. The encounter was unspectacular. He was more interested in the candle and stabbed the mini-cake a few times with it. Some parents describe head-first dives into the cake. Not Iz.

So why am I sad? I don’t know. Or, rather, I can’t explain.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

in the moment (a definition of terms)

The yoga instructor says, “With each breath, bring your focus to the present moment.”

My husband, Abraham, says, “Embrace the moment.” He is not the first to recommend this.

My son, Iz, and my dog, Zi, live in the present moment quite competently.

I don’t know how to do this even a little bit. Even during yoga. Even while running. Even while playing with Iz or Zi.

Maybe this “moment” everyone talks about is the secular equivalent, or my equivalent, of those medieval Christian thinkers’ eternity – beyond comprehension or explanation.

I should attempt to define my terms for “When Time Meets Eternity” (WTME):

Time, to me, means either a linear sequence (birth to death) or a cyclical repetition (the seasons). Are there other types of time?

Eternity is a tougher one to define in my personal, secular context. It is, perhaps, just another type of time, not necessarily time’s opposite. It is the present moment? Is it the entire past and future contained in some immediate experience? (The latter is closer to that medieval conception of god’s eternal time.)

Maybe the “eternity” I am adopting (and adapting) from those medievalists, who worried at the question of how human time could possibly understand or intersect with god’s eternity, is more of a concept of identity, present, or memory. I don’t think I accept or believe in a type of eternity related to a god or deity. It is too implausible and not useful to me. But that may prove the existence of eternity and god(s).

In the late eleventh century, Saint Anselm of Canterbury made the ontological argument the in his Proslogion that “proved” god’s existence by asserting that there must exist something “than which nothing greater can be conceived” and that it is impossible to think of this something if it doesn’t exist – since you can conceive of it, it must exist beyond your imagination because you can conceive of it beyond your imagination. Therefore, God and his eternal time must exist. Our inability to conceive somehow proved god’s, and eternity’s, existence. This makes my head hurt.

Moving on.

Is my eternity simply my memories and experiences, from my beginning to the present (though not yet through my end, since I don’t know my future), experienced all at once?

Or is it my identity, which, to some extent, is my memories and experiences in the present moment?

Monday, April 04, 2005

cherry blossoms (not yet)

The 2005 Cherry Blossom Festival has begun in Washington, DC. But the blossoms are not out yet. Too cold? I am no expert. The cherry trees are budding, but not even the first haze of pink blooms emerging is visible around the Tidal Basin. Maybe in a few days.

The only festival event I have ever taken part in is the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run – in 2001, 2003, and this year. Last year, I was about to give birth, but I did go for a walk among the blossoms two weeks before the little guy arrived ("arrived" is so not the right word). And in 2002, I had run the Washington DC Marathon only two weeks before, so I assumed I would be incapable of a 10-miler. I would run it every year if I could.

Runners have to sign up by the end of December to get in to this famous race. Ten thousand people ran this year. As a result, it is a pain in the ass to get to the starting line. (Heck, it is a pain to go to "packet pickup" to get your number and T-shirt the day before the race.) The closest parking is a mile away. The logistics for a big race like this one require much planning.

But I am crazy, so I thought that mile walk would be a good warm-up. And I needed it on that April 3rd spring day of 40 degree temperatures and gusting winds. Nasty. But not as nasty as it could have been. At least the skies had stopped pouring down rain on the DC area. Damn unpredictable spring! It was supposed to be 60 degrees and sunny.

Let me start off by saying that I didn't get to sleep until 11 pm the night before and had to wake up at 5am. But 5am was really 4am because the clocks had "sprung" forward. So to get to the race, which started at 8am (ahem, 7am), I had to leave my house at 6:30am (5:30am). I must have at least an hour to have coffee, breakfast, some water, read a bit, whatever, before I lace up the running shoes and go to a race. So, five hours of sleep. But those hours were interrupted at least three times by my son needing comfort, milk (he is still breastfeeding), snuggles. He has an uncanny sense of when I need sleep, and then he makes sure it doesn't happen.

I am always early. I wanted to be walking from my car to the race at 7am. I worry about port-o-john availability and about checking my bag of warm dry clothing before the starting gun goes off. (I have never missed the start of a race.)

I was there at 6:30. (I know, I said I was leaving at 6:30. I left a bit earlier.) I sat in my old Jeep Cherokee on Maine Avenue near the Waterfront Fish Market in SW DC. The fishmongers were arriving and just beginning to set up.

On my way to the start, I jogged/walked along the flooded Tidal Basin. The water was muddy and practically white capping (yes, in the Tidal Basin!) in front of the Jefferson Monument. Much of the sidewalk was covered with water. Such a different view from two years before, when the sun was out and the pink blossoms ringed the basin.

The beauty about running races in downtown DC is that all the monuments have bathrooms. So I didn't have to worry about lining up for the row of port-o-johns. Instead, I lined up for the warm, cozy, clean FDR monument toilets.

And I checked my bag of clothes a good twenty minutes before the start.

The race ended well. I felt like crap for the first 5 miles. I was tired and hungry. Never a good way to feel when attempting to cruise along under eight-minute miles. I don't think I warmed-up enough, or I didn't sleep enough or eat enough. My goal was to finish in under one hour and twenty minutes, which would mean a mile pace under eight minutes (or "sub-eights" as those – we – runner-types might say).

But I did it. Only once did my watch tell me I’d run a mile in over 7:45. I felt great after I had my GU – a carbohydrate gel infusion that comes in a little silver packet. It worked – psychologically I think, since I felt energized immediately. The last mile was tough, but I was flying and ran it in 7:25.

My finishing time: one hour, seventeen minutes, and thirty-eight seconds. I was 240-something out of 4300-something women. This was the first Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in which the women outnumbered the men. We kicked ass!

I used to really care about my race times – then I slowed down a bit and cared (a little) less. Now I care again. And for some reason I am as fast as I ever was. In fact, this was my best 10-mile time ever. Only once before have I run a 10-miler in under one hour and twenty minutes. (Though I have run a half-marathon, 13.1 miles, in under eight-minute miles.)

I have gone on too long. Time to get back to editing.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

current conditions are not good

I am re-reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (I think I first read it when I was 19 or so). It is a rather clever and self-satisfied little book.

As I read, I picture the BBC miniseries. Since it was made in 1981, I think this association dates me (and perhaps reveals my nerdy side). I was 10 years old at the time. My friend K. -- she was also rather clever and self-satisfied -- had read the book and insisted we watch the TV series.

I remember the BBC's special effects were low tech. But high-tech special effects were not really necessary for the story, even though it falls within the realm of science fiction. I do remember that Zaphod Beeblebrox's second head was rather stiff and and wobbled around on the actor's shoulder. Sometimes it looked like it was held up by strings. The powers that be also put an eye patch on this second head, perhaps in an attempt to mask its plastic-ness.

Anyway. In chapter 20 of the book, Beeblebrox says, "I only know so much about myself as my mind can work out under its current conditions." I like it. Though I am not a huge fan of quotes out of context and no quote fits a new or different situation perfectly, this one feels right and reminds me of my "bad memory" post and, in some unfathomable way (or am I just too lazy to figure it out?), about the relationship between time and eternity.

Beeblebrox adds, "And its current conditions are not good."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"time management"

I think most of my stress stems from a major issue I seem to be having with so-called “time management.” I can’t get anything done. Yes, I have much less time to get things done while taking care of my son. But, I swear, I will have two hours during which my son is playing by himself happily or taking a nap. Yet I cannot finish that editing job (FYI: I am a freelance editor and writer), or I can’t finish cleaning the kitchen (which has needed it for longer than I care to admit). I have not been watching TV, nor have I called a friend. In fact, I may not have even sat down. I may have put on a load of laundry. But two hours have disappeared. And I could have finished that editing job or cleaned the kitchen in that time – and all would be well with the world. I feel like I am in a time warp of some sort. This is driving me crazy! Where the hell is the time going?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

bad memory

I think I have a bad memory – or maybe I am very good at forgetting embarrassing or difficult memories – I am only thirty-three and I feel like much of my past is foggy. Is that normal?

I have formative memories: those memories that I like to have, that I think formed who I am. They are not all cheery, but I am proud of those memories. They make me tough woman (though I might not sound or appear so).

I can tease other, less loved memories out of the fog. This is my goal: write down the formative and the foggy ones.

Monday, March 21, 2005

how can I?

But this time and eternity concept is too contrived for good writing. Right? For years, I studied, researched and examined twelfth-century thinkers and how they conceived of the relationship(s) between time and eternity, how they tried to explain and describe eternity at all when they lived "in time." I can’t just take that tension and apply it to me, make a memoir that somehow discusses that relationship in my terms (and certainly not in the religious terms of those twelfth-century thinkers).

How can I? Because that is exactly what I want to do.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

while sitting on a beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica

My mother, the writer, tells me I should write, that I am a good writer and always have been. She remembers that I wrote novels when I was thirteen. Actually, I wrote only beginnings of novels – 50 or so pages here and there.

I should write about the middle ages (which I studied in college and grad school) – historical fiction – but I am not interested in that genre. I didn’t study day-to-day life: whether or not they used tapestries to keep homes (castles? stone buildings?) warm, non-drafty. I studied medieval “intellectual history,” which does not much help to inform my potential readers about a regular, everyday medieval person of any class. I did study medieval literature and how it connected to medieval history – but that is also divorced from day-to-day reality. The topic that fascinates me most is how medieval thinkers understood and discussed the relationship between time and eternity.

I should write about my first years of teaching – right out of college – at a tiny special education school in the East 30s in Manhattan. A school run by a crazy, control-freak woman who drove employees out, usually forcing them to resign, if they didn’t keep her informed about their personal lives of if she imagined they said bad things about her or favorite employees. It is hard to explain how someone is crazy without sounding crazy or paranoid yourself. She was exceptionally hard to work for. I adored my first students, though. They are now in their early 20s, the age I was teaching them. But is this a story? Honestly, I’ve tried to block most of it out. I don’t even know if I can remember the details of those years. I have journals that I am unable to read. I do remember being put in charge of the lunch table of the oldest boys in middle school – the seventh graders – and the peas that were thrown and put down people’s shirts.

Right now, what is on my mind most is my son, my first child (my only child so far). He is eleven months old and amazing – all consuming. But so many people write about motherhood/parenthood experiences. Do I have anything original to say?

As a mother, I feel more myself in some ways. But I am also striving to be more myself now that my self-ness is threatened, subsumed, consumed. I want clothes like I wore ten, fifteen years ago – or a more “mature” or “modern” version: the big boots with a vintage dress, the chunky rings, the fishnets (except I now hate wearing stockings of any sort – so binding). What I used to wear as a teen and twenty-something in New York City is now practically mainstream, which is good (access) and bad (trendy): The low-rise jeans, the vintage dresses, the big boots.

My post-baby body is fitting back into old clothes, but it seems different in shape. I want to start over, go back, clear things out but return to the essential Morgan. I don’t think I mean the younger Morgan – I’m not too worried about being in my 30s. (though now I look at people in their 70s, 80s… and wonder how in the world I can possible turn into that… or how they used to be me.) It did dawn on me that I am about to turn 34. That gave me pause, for a moment.

While I feel like I am returning to my self – the roots of Morgan – I am also worried that I am not myself. Maybe if I can dress the way I did, listen to the same music at full volume (to which, thankfully, my son bangs his head – I think I’ll have the grunge, punk-rock kid) – then I am still myself.

This is the first time I have written – really written what I am thinking – in years. I have written race reports, edited business writing, written notes on ideas for catchy little articles that I have never pitched to anyone because I don’t know how to sell myself.

Maybe this is all about time: the relationship between the “eternal” Morgan and the “in time” Morgan.

Or just finding the time. I am on vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica, as I write. Vacation is very different, slower, with an eleven-month-old. I have not been anywhere tropical since I was fifteen. My sister-in-law is napping in the hotel room with my son. And I wondered: what did I do – before baby, before marriage, before lots of things – with free time? I am not a person who takes naps (my mother has something to say on that subject, too: she wants to force me to like them); they make me feel odd – my ears ring, my head pounds, I get a headache, I can’t fall asleep easily (and I fall asleep within minutes at night), and I wake up grumpy and can’t shake it off for an hour or more. I do like reading, but I rarely read for hours on end anymore and reading feels like a bedtime thing now.

I used to write. But that was so long ago – but it feels right now, sitting on a beach in Jamaica.

Dusk in Montego Bay Posted by Hello